Still Going Strong
Last of Bannockburn
We found this
charming little article from a very old Stirling Observer newspaper
(from around the 1890s we think) which marks the end of an era in
Bannockburn - the one-time home of famous tartan weavers Wilsons.
And of course, also the site of a battle in 1314 where Robert the
Bruce made some English eyes water.
Burnside Hand-Loom Weaving Factory is situated in Carpet Close
in Old Town Bannockburn. No hooter sounds to call workers to their
day's toil or to tell them that their eight-hour day is over, for
there is only one workman there, Mr William Chirrey, the
proprietor. He is the last of the handloom weavers of
It is six-five years since Mr Chirrey took to his trade. At the
age of ten he became a drawboy in one of the many tweed mills in
Bannockburn. At that time the Bannockburn tweeds were known
throughout the length and breadth of the land for their excellence,
and 115 hand-looms and 20 power looms were at work in the
Even then the day of the hand looms was almost over and there were
periods of idleness for the weaver, so much so that Mr Chirrey's
father decided to join the police. On his way to the Old Stirling
Burgh Police office in Broad Street, he saw a policeman standing in
the centre of the street. "Man, a couldnae be yin o' them" thought
Mr Chirrey's father. "and so he decided to stick with the varying
fortunes of the hand-loom.
Mr Chirrey told me this as he yanked out a great big plaid of
Cameron tartan from the press in which he stores the cloth he
makes. He had some splendid samples of his art to show me.
Beautiful suit lengths of herring-bone pattern, Glen Urquhart
checks, broad plus-four checks, and ladies' suit lengths. All
of the best material, and made only as a hand-loom weaver can
For a while I watched him at work at one of his looms where he was
making a six-about check. With his left hand he pushed to and fro a
heavy beam; with his right hand he jerked the hand leather to right
and left, sending the shuttle racing backwards and forwards across
the loom; I calculated that working normally for ten hours, each of
his limbs would make 15,120 distinct movements.
"Nae wunner the weaver's a healthy man," chuckled Mr Chirrey. And
if Mr Chirrey is any criterion, they must have been a healthy set
of men, these old weavers, for at the age of 75 he has the firm,
purposeful step of a man half his age.
Like his father, Mr Chirrey "mun be active." He now carries on the
hand-loom weaving as a pastime, but the standard of his work is of
the highest. Most of the cloth he makes is sold to a famous
Edinburgh house. I was surprised to learn that not a yards of the
cloth made by him is sold in Stirling. Surely there is a draper in
Stirling, the true Historic Capital of Scotland, who would
find it worthwhile to display cloth made by this fine old weaver -
tweeds that are made in the true tradition of the famous